Monday, January 23, 2012

49ers Come Up Short In NFC Championship

The 49ers had their shot, they had the lead heading into the 4th quarter of play on a wet, sloppy field, but the Giants had just too much fire power offensively in the end. Victory Cruz had a field day tearing up the Niners secondary, and even when the pressure was on him, Eli Manning hung in and played a heckuva game.

The 49ers sacked Eli 6 times, they were in his face on numerous other occasions, but Eli managed to put up a big fat goose egg in the turnover column while the 49ers had two costly ones, and when all was said and done, that was the difference in this game. Now, I know nobody is feeling worse about things than Kyle Williams, who muffed two punts, which gave the Giants some easy points on a short field. I kept telling the people I was watching the game with that the 49ers are going to have to force a big turnover themselves in the waning minutes, or else they aren't going to do it. Their offense was stagnant vs. the Giants defense, really all day save for Alex Smith's two TD tosses to Vernon Davis. Smith completed just 12 of 26 pass attempts, and although they seemed to have a nice rythym to their running game, they only ran Gore 16 times, which on a wet and sloppy field took me by surprise. I mean, this team was really in control of the game after that 3rd quarter and had all the momentum and all they had to do was put together a final 15 minutes of solid play, but they just came up short. I mean, set aside the muffed punts, and the 49ers win this one, probably easily. However, the Giants cashed in with 10 points on 49ers turnovers while the 49ers couldn't get the Giants to cough one up. I credit Eli for that, cause there were a few times where the 49ers had him and he pitched it out last second to find Ahmad Bradshaw and gain yardage rather than getting sacked and possibly fumbling the ball. I think the 49ers were a better team, but they didn't play with the Giants on Sunday, and didn't deserve to win the game.

Now, I don't want to just sit here and rag on all the things that went wrong, the Vernon penalties, the muffed punts, the botched reverse, letting Victor Cruz burn you time and time again, I'd rather talk about what this team has going forward. I mean, I was saying whoever won that NFC game should be favored against a flawed New England Patriots team, and I still think that, so it's incredible just to think a minute how far this team has come over the last 12 months. From a laughing stock of football and the poster-team for the NFC Worst (NFC West reference), to being within a quarter of going to the Super Bowl. I don't want to sound like a sore loser, cause I'm not, the 49ers exceeded all my expectations this year, and even though I was hoping for another Cinderella ride like the San Francisco Giants gave us in 2010, I'm content with where this team is and the direction it's headed. Now, for the first time since I created this website 2 years ago, we get to talk about a football team moving in the right direction, a team that is maybe another player or two away from being real legit contenders. I've been saddled with the Raiders and 49ers the last few years, and it's just been one comical mishap after another for each franchise until the 49ers finally broke through this year, and again, they aren't that far off at all from really transforming into year-in and year-out contenders under coach Harbough.

We'll have all spring to talk about the draft and all summer to talk about potential free agents the team could pursue, but just based on needs from this game alone, I think it's pretty clear the 49ers need to re-look both their cornerback depth chart and take a long look at available wide receivers. I know Josh Morgan went down in season and should be back next training camp, but even he should be a 3rd or 4th guy. Michael Crabtree disappeared on Sunday vs. the Giants, even more so than he did vs. the Saints last week, when at least he got free for a TD catch but did little else. I think he's proven how inconsistent he can be and I no longer consider him a #1 type receiving talent. The 49ers went 1-13 on third downs, and I attribute that solely to the receivers failing to get open. I mean, had they converted on just 25% of third down tries, they win the game. Smith had to tuck the ball and run numerous times cause he couldn't find anyone. Vernon Davis managed to put up a huge postseason, even though defenses really had most of their focus, in terms of the Niners passing game, on containing him, but he could only do so much, being a tight end and also being involved in blocking schemes. Also, the 49ers showed in the end they just didn't have enough cover guys to matchup with all the Giants weapons, and barely managed to do so vs. the Saints last week. Carlos Rogers has one spot locked up, but I wouldn't be surprised if the 49ers open up some competition for those CB 2, CB 3 and CB 4 spots, cause in this day and age of the NFL, you need at least 3-4 good cover corners.

Again, we'll have the whole offseason to talk more about the 49ers needs and who they should go after. Starting with what to do with Alex Smith, who's going to be a free agent? Most think he's assuredly coming back as the 49ers starter, and I'm not at all opposed to that, but I hope they add some more depth and competition there than just Colin Kaepernick.

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